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Bulls can't capitalize on Rockets' penalties, but pull away in fourth quarter

TOLEDO, Ohio — The University at Buffalo football team rallied from a 10-point deficit at halftime to earn a key 31-17 win Saturday at Toledo. But for a few minutes late in the first half and early in the third quarter, the Bulls couldn’t capitalize on penalties that improved their position in Toledo territory.

Instead of scoring a pair of touchdowns on two drives, the Bulls got only three points on one field goal.

Trailing 10-7 with about six minutes left in the half, after Toledo's Jameson Vest kicked a 38-yard field goal, the Bulls couldn’t capitalize in the red zone after advancing with the help of two penalties on their second-to-last drive of the first half. Dyontae Johnson was called for roughing the passer on third-and-7 from the UB 28, which moved the Bulls to the 43. Josh Teachey got called for a face mask penalty from the Toledo 42 three plays later, which moved the Bulls to the 20 after K.J. Osborn’s 7-yard catch.

UB only moved five yards in the next three plays, and Adam Mitcheson went wide left on a 32-yard field goal attempt that would have tied the game with 3:33 left in the half.

The Bulls also moved as a result of a pair of penalties on the opening drive of the second half: a 15-yard personal foul against Reggie Howard that advanced the Bulls from their own 39 to the Toledo 46, and a 15-yard personal foul against Tyler Taafe that moved the Bulls from the 46 to the 27 two plays later.

Mitcheson ended the drive six plays later on a 39-yard field goal at 4:13 of the third that cut the Rockets’ lead to 17-10.

UB coach Lance Leipold didn’t look at those two drives as squandered opportunities. They kept Toledo’s defense on the field, and took time of possession away from the Rockets. Furthermore, the Rockets were called for 12 penalties for 148 yards.

“The one drive, the field goal, there was two 15-yard penalties, which really kept our drive alive,” UB coach Lance Leipold said. “It probably would have gotten them off the field, and probably would have kept momentum in their favor.”

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UB center James O’Hagan praised his team for what he calls its “fourth-quarter mentality.” The Bulls trailed at halftime at Toledo, a week after leading Akron by only four points at the half in a 24-6 win against the Zips at UB Stadium.

“We’ve got a bunch of dogs on our team,” O’Hagan said. “We’ve got guys that just refuse to lose. The way we think about it, we’ve got no option. We have no option to lose. We’re not going out there, thinking, at any quarter or at any time we’re losing.”

The Bulls took control of the game in the fourth, as Jaret Patterson scored touchdowns on two of UB’s last four possessions.

“We played with a lot of energy and were feeding off each other in the first half,” Toledo linebacker Jordan Fisher said. “We were playing as a unit, and we were able to come up with (three) turnovers. They ran similar stuff in the second half, and we need to keep knowing our assignments and coverages.

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Wide receiver Anthony Johnson caught four passes for 83 yards and two touchdowns against the Rockets, his most productive game in nearly two months.

Johnson dressed but either did not play or played minimally in two games after he sustained a hamstring injury in a 42-13 win Sept. 22 at Rutgers. Johnson caught a season-best two passes for 101 yards and a touchdown against the Scarlet Knights.

He played in 39 of the Bulls’ 76 snaps last weekend against Akron, and estimated he played in “about 30 to 40” of the Bulls’ 90 snaps against the Rockets.

“I was coming in and out, but as far as I’m feeling now, I feel pretty good,” Johnson said. “I’ll get more plays, and it will be a process, but I feel good.”

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UB linebacker Khalil Hodge had 13 tackles against Toledo, and has 376 career tackles. Hodge is tied with Pete Conley (1992-95)  for fourth all-time among the Bulls’ career leaders in tackles.

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